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Marc Conrad
United States
River Ridge
Louisiana
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Over the past few weeks, my son and I have been playing Frontiers--another game from Tanga's Island of Lost Toys. Once you wade past the lame anti-American political diatribe found in the rule book and its poorly written rules, you can hunker down and experience its game play--only then does this scifi tactical war game prove its worth. The rules apparently suffer from a French-to-English language translation barrier. However, they’re largely intuitive if you've ever played any other a miniature war game system. Experienced gamers will easily navigate around them, grasping the concepts and filling in any gaps. Newbies, however, might need a few walkthrough games before figuring out how to play. This barrier is likely why the game saw poor sales and ended up in the discount bins since it was intended to attract new players to the miniature war gaming genre, albeit without any miniatures.

You don't use miniatures in Frontiers--instead, you use round and oval cardboard chits. These chits contain excellent artwork and clear graphics showing each unit’s stats. The lack of cumbersome plastic miniatures makes Frontiers cost less and offers you two ready to play armies which fit inside the box, all without any assembly or fussy painting. You can tell that the game’s designers invested a lot of time perfecting their system--it shows. It really shines during gameplay. Their clever spacial and color-coded graphical interface on each of the unit chits make gameplay easy, quick, and smooth. Figuring out a unit’s stats is a breeze. The different combat units’ artwork offers a 3D feel. The included poster playing surface adds to the scifi atmosphere.

During setup you balance the strength of each army by agreeing upon the total AP points available. AP point values are listed on each unit according to their strength. You simply choose various units and add them to your army until you reach the AP limit. Each army also receives unique faction cards which add chaos to the game by assisting with attacks, adding to defense, helping with mobility, or increasing health etc. Scenarios might dictate victory conditions requiring you to eliminate a certain AP value of your enemy’s army. Other scenarios might require you to hold and defend specific parts of the map or capture an item--it’s all up to your imagination.

The terrain features included in the box are abundant and you can choose to place craters, ruins, wooded areas, and buildings onto your battlefield. Players mutually decide where to place these items during setup. Terrain features disrupt line-of-sight, add color to the board, and offer variety to game play. Certain destroyed units become part of the terrain; this is a neat feature. The terrain also allow you to customize the architecture of buildings. Some units can enter buildings (or even infiltrate them during initial unit placement). I like the fact that these custom buildings allow you to add castle-defense scenarios or simply use them for complex tactical cover.

The game has hidden mission supply drop/cache counters for units to obtain on a first-come basis. These might give a unit a new weapon system, explosives, a med-kit, or what have you. Other counters in the game can be used as capture the flag style mission objectives; e.g., one counter included represents a computer data bank that each army might be trying to protect or obtain depending upon the scenario. You can combine all of these features to create your own custom scenarios. All of the items together lend depth to the Frontiers sandbox and promote repeated gameplay.

Game play is simple. On your turn, you choose whether your unit moves, attacks, or, uses or flips to use its special ability. You can also play one of your army's cards which might either improve your attack, defense, health, movement etc. depending upon which cards appear in your hand from the deck. A unit’s movement stats determines initiative. The order in which your units take action depends upon which secret numerical order token is placed next to it; just like Heroscape, decoy order tokens are used to increase the fog of war on the battlefield. The number of orders available to you depends upon the initial total army AP number chosen during setup and whether your army includes leaders who increase the number of order tokens available to you; likewise, losing leaders in combat reduces your combat effectiveness by reducing the number of orders available.

Attacking successfully in Frontiers depends upon the combat strength stats listed on your unit and what type of enemy unit is being attacked, all combined with the roll of a d6 die--if you equal or exceed a unit's defense value, then it takes a hit. Distance, line-of-site obstructions, and any cards available might modify your chances of success during combat. Some units might also have special weapon features that assist in combat by reducing distance penalties, line of sight problems, or what-have-you.

I usually play the Legion army and my son plays the Zirl army. Both sides are well balanced and asymmetrical; however, the planned expansions, had they been released, would have added additional units, new terrain, more specialized units, and fleshed-out a few existing units by adding customizable weapon systems intended for both of the armies's larger mechs. They had even planned another faction to choose as your army. Of the units in the box, we most enjoy the special abilities that some units offer, and, of course, we like the larger mechs which can attack more than once if you assign two order tokens to them. My favorite special ability so far is one unit's ability to lay down smoke to obscure the enemy's line of sight to your units.

This game shines very brightly if you're creative enough to write your own scenarios. Those included in the rulebook are few and basic. I've been meaning to make the additional expansions which the designers created, but, didn't publish. Instead, they chose to reboot their entire gaming system to a WWII theme: Heroes of Normandie which also changed the ruler based unit movement to a grid system. The Frontiers expansions are available for download for free, however. You don't need them though since what's included in the box is enough to keep you busy for hours. Moreover, you can glance at the free Heroes of Normandie scenarios for game ideas to add to Frontiers--war is war.

If you want to experience this gaming system, then you can do it on-the-cheap with Frontiers since it's much cheaper than its rebooted WWII cousin. Copies of Frontiers sell for as little $8.88 with free shipping (or cheaper). I prefer the scifi genre to WWII and I'm also thrifty so it's been a perfect fit for me. Frontiers is a real bargain--there's a lot of well designed tactical miniature wargaming crammed inside the box, especially for its current discounted price.
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Shaun Layton
United States
Leominster
Massachusetts
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I agree. Fun game with lots of variables to the gameplay to give sufficient replay. I got it from Tanga when it was $5 with free shipping, and I think it was worth it. I have only played it once so far, but I do look forward to more plays.
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John Connelly
United States
York
Pennsylvania
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Thank you for the well written, informative review. I love this game, it's a real steal at < $10 and I picked up several copies. I love that it's a complete miniatures-ish game in a slender, portable box. I wish this game had been recognized for just how good it is; it's nice to know others appreciate it, too.
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
France
Versailles
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Thank you for this review.

I just wanted to mention another miniature-like, token-based game that is not much more expensive: Warhammer: Diskwars. It's arguably a very good game.
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Freddy Dekker
Netherlands
Friesland
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Warhammer, I've experienced other warhammer games.

A never ending story and a money pit combined.

You'll be buying updates and other stuff you must have for decades.




 
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jeff fearnow
United States
tucson
az
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sagitar wrote:
Warhammer, I've experienced other warhammer games.

A never ending story and a money pit combined.

You'll be buying updates and other stuff you must have for decades.






A million times this
 
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Rick Herrick
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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If you see a bad guy, gun him down. If he's still wiggling shoot him again. There's no wiggling in the Old West!
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Great review Marc! I've not played this myself yet either, but it's looked like a lot of fun and I picked up like six copies for $5 each on Tanga years ago. For a thin box game it's HEAVY! I'd add that the playing pieces are printed on thick card stock so they're easy to handle. The price was so cheap that I bought several copies thinking that I might want to us a couple of games together to play a large scale encounter.

The map is big too at 25 1/4" by 39 1/4"! I saw that the designers posted the finished art for the other units that they intended to put in the expansions here on BGG. With all the extra copies I bought I'm thinking I'll get those files printed out, cut out the units and then mount them on the extra playing pieces that are in my extra copies of the game. That will make a LOT of different units to play around with.

I see that Miniature Market has this game on clearance currently for six bucks ($6.00)! So it's still available for cheap!!!

Thanks for the review.
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